Mark I Chester photo of the day
Mark I Chester studio  1229 Folsom St./SF  415-621-6294 

November 5, 2011


photo of the day 11/5/2011. photo Mark I Chester. Two photographs taken in 544 Natoma Performance Gallery in 1982. Top photo: Lou Rudolph, performance painter, doing an impromptu performance painting of two women including Camille O'Grady. Camille was a darling of the underground performance scene in NY. But in SF her real claim to fame was being present the night that Robert Opel, gay radical sex gallery owner and photographer, was murdered in his SOMA gallery. Bottom photo: David Baker, with Lorenzo Glover, in Genet's The Maids, a gay revisioning by Ken Wilkinson.

Peter Hartman and 544 Natoma Performance Gallery were a very important part of my history. When I was documenting my sexual scenes, Peter was the very first person from the art world who expressed any interest in the work I was doing. He included me in a major show of gay and lesbian photography at 544 in 1981. I had never seen a show of gay and lesbian photography before. It may not be ground breaking now, but it was f*&%king groundbreaking then. Peter believed. On nothing more than an inheritance from his grandmother, a history in the NY performance scene including work with Julian Beck and the Living Theater and his near destruction from addiction to, well you name it. He resurfaced in San Francisco because like so many of us he was drawn to San Francisco in the great gay migration of the 1970s and 80s. Yes, it WAS drugs, sex, art, music and theater. And yes, it was revolution. We *OCCUPIED* ecstasy and wouldn't let go.

Peter was a genius and a madman. I would put Peter on a very short list of gay men who were as brilliant and electrifying as fireworks lighting up the sky. There was just something about him. He was obsessive and addictive on every level. He tore down the walls that separated art, music and theater from sex and insisted that as gay men, it was our duty, no...., it was our birthright to change the world through art and sex. For example, the very first meeting of the San Francisco Jacks was on the stage of 544 Natoma with Lou Rudolph performance painting the mass ejaculations. Oh, did I mention that Peter and Lou had a passionate sexual affair right around this time too? It was all very incestuous. :)

There was a dark side to all of this, of course. I don't mean to suggest that there are no consequences in life. There are and they paid and we have paid dearly for it and we are still paying for it. But there is a lesson here about believing and moving forward on nothing more than faith in gay men, community, art and sex.